Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

This morning, we were swept onto the campaign trail as Senators Obama and McCain shared their plans for US policy in each of CGI’s four focus areas: education, poverty alleviation, climate change, and global health. Each addressed the current financial crisis, and the international cooperation that we need going forward to overcome it. Both also discussed the imperative of addressing malaria, diversifying our energy use, and improving education. Senator Obama emphasized the role we each have to play – “the scale of our challenges may be great; the pace of change may be swift, but we know that it need not be feared. The landscape of the 21st century is still ours to shape.”

Each candidate touched on the rise of food prices globally. Over the past 24 months, grain prices have doubled, prices of fertilizers and fuels have tripled, and 30 countries across the world have seen food riots. Today in areas as distinct as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, millions of people face starvation. Devastation wrought by drought, misguided corn ethanol subsidies, and protectionist agricultural policies have skyrocketed world grain prices, spiraling many of the worlds poor further into poverty.

In light of this relationship between food security and poverty, the Poverty Alleviation Track started the day with a panel on this topic. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argued that we must frame the food crisis as an issue of national security if we are to overcome our ‘crisis fatigue’ and drive our leaders to take action. There is the danger of a ‘billiard ball effect’, of domestic policies that worsen the situation in neighboring countries, leading to heightened tensions and the risk of conflict. Amos Namanga Ngongi of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) explained the need to focus on small-holder farmers, for they constitute the vast majority of farmers in Africa. He emphasized taking a comprehensive approach to smallholder agricultural development, improving seeds, soil, production, and transportation to market. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, believes commodity exchanges bring necessary order, integrity, efficiency and transparency to all market actors – and thereby reduce risk. She has set up electronic price boards throughout Ethiopia to instantaneously provide crucial price information to farmers, consumers and traders. Ken Lee, co-founder of Lotus Foods, described the labor intensity required to educate US consumers about the value of traditional agriculture sourced from developing countries, pointing out that customers are willing to pay a premium for these products. At table discussions, CGI members identified the importance of increasing small farmers’ access to finance, leveraging information technology to strengthen the entire value chain, and instituting legal protection for land ownership.

Nick Kristof of the New York Times built on these early themes with our post-conflict panel, where speakers emphasized the risk of falling back in to conflict, and the need for post-conflict leaders to provide immediate results in improving livelihoods and opportunities, giving former combatants a stake in the new order. One in two countries that has emerged from conflict will return to violent conflict within five years, and thus immediate and sustained action is crucial. Peter Buffett of the NoVo Foundation, Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank, and Mayu Brizuela of HSBC El Salvador, all underscored that women must be central at all stages — from ending conflict, to restoring trust and to securing longer term stability and development. Peter warned against ‘philanthropic colonialism’, or assuming that we know best – instead we must see, experience, and listen to the people we are trying to help, because they know best.

We concluded the day with a joint panel with the Climate track to explore the interplay between the climate crisis and poverty. We learned that while climate change will have the most devastating effect on the poor, addressing this crisis poses an opportunity for lifting the poor from poverty through millions of new green jobs. The panel urged outside-the-box thinking when it comes to addressing these challenges simultaneously. Dr. Pachauri, Director General of TERI – The Energy Resources Institute– provided the example of his “Lighting a Billion Lives” initiative whereby women entrepreneurs rent out solar powered flashlights to communities in India that are not currently electrified, enabling school children to study at night and villagers to eke out a better living. President Calderón of Mexico called for the creation of a Green Fund that all countries could contribute to and take from to respond to consequences of climate change. And Oakland’s Van Jones and Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation put forward the need to bring new partners to a “Green Growth Alliance” to realize the economic potential for creating millions of new green jobs.

All in all, a whirlwind day – brimming with ideas and opportunities in the face of crisis.

Jane Wales
President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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“Who’s going to win?” It was the question on everyone’s mind Tuesday night at the Herbst Theatre, where World Affairs Council CEO & President Jane Wales spoke in conversation with “America’s Pollster General,” John Zogby, President & CEO of Zogby International. Jane posed the question to divine his insights on the upcoming Presidential election this November. Since 1966, John Zogby has been polling both domestically and abroad on the most pressing political issues of the day. He correctly predicted almost all of the 2006 U.S. Senate races and was also credited with most accurately calling the Iran election this past year.

In response to Ms. Wale’s opening question, Mr. Zogby painted a picture of the two candidates as he sees it. He described Senator Obama as the new face of America’s future, a true globalist representing a new generation of leadership – in other words, a Jack Kennedy. Zogby painted Senator McCain as a face from two generations past, a man who stands for sacrifice, patriotism, and country above all else, who knows the ins and outs of Washington, and is running against his own party – a Harry Truman figure. Zogby compared these traits to what Americans claim to be looking for in a president, data that he has from a recent poll where he asked Americans to list what they want most in a president – first on this list was a problem solver, followed by someone capable of managing the government, working across the aisle, and possessing strong personal values (not Christian values – which ranked last in the poll).

Wales probed Zogby on his findings of international opinions of the United States and its politics, and the implications for foreign policy. Zogby posited that the response to Hurricane Katrina will prove to be a more defining moment in U.S. history than 9/11 for it showed how deeply broken our system is – and he believes that our invasion of Iraq was that defining moment for the international community – revealing our broken and reckless system to the entire world. He described the invasion as a “screw-up of massive proportions” in terms of international opinion, and compared the surge to a “wonderful game of whack-a-mole” – regardless of official statements from Washington, the surge is not succeeding. Any reduction in violence has happened because the Sunni leadership outside of Baghdad has made their peace for purely personal reasons, unrelated to the surge. In a recent poll he conducted in the Middle East, Zogby found that Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Palestine were the most significant outrages in opinion of the U.S., and that “betrayal” and “humiliation” are the two words that best describe the relationship between our two regions. Zogby concluded with a call for a deep commitment to broader public diplomacy – a commitment of money, time, visa programs, internships, exchanges – to make a real effort to present the best of this country to the rest of the world, while we still can. A sad and sobering note, and one that we all hope can be repaired with the next administration, whoever it may be. Even John Zogby, pollster general, can’t call this one.

Listen to the program here.

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